What Should You Know About Telematics?

What Should You Know About Telematics?

The word 'telematics' is a compound term. It combines 'tele' – a prefix denoting remote communications (the prefix is derived from the Greek for 'far off', or 'at a distance') – and 'informatics', a discipline incorporating the practice of information processing. Hence, this is what telematics is about: transmitting information over lengthy distances. It is used for a variety of commercial and non-commercial purposes, but when this technology is used in fleet management, it is most commonly utilized to manage vehicles or other assets remotely, and to provide an overview of a range of information relating to them.

In recent years, telematics has changed the face of a number of industries, with it driving a major transformation in transport, construction and site excavation. Firms managing fleets of vehicles across a huge range of sectors have come to adopt telematics, which has helped to improve reliability, boost customer service standards, increase efficiency and enhance the bottom line.

In its broadest sense telematics actually includes the internet itself, since it combines telecommunications (phone lines, cables, etc.) with informatics (such as computer systems). However, the term is now more commonly used to apply to vehicle telematics, where vehicle location information is used in different business applications to ultimately help business owners better manage a fleet-based workforce.

The technology allows the sending, receiving and storing of information relating to remote objects (in this case, the vehicle) via telecommunication devices that plugs into the OBD II or CAN-BUS port, with a SIM card and onboard modem enabling communication through a mobile network. This smart device then records and reports on various points of available data. There are many who believe, however, that telematics simply shows GPS vehicle location – this does not begin to cover the breadth of actionable intelligence that telematics provides.

But, before we get into the weeds of what telematics can really do, let's quickly look at how it came about in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions

Telematics systems work by connecting a device, such as a GPS tracker or other data logging tool, to an asset. Then, the tool collects key performance data about the asset. Once collected, the device will send the information to a data center where it can be collated, interpreted, and analyzed.

They use it to describe technology monitoring the movement of vehicles. Tracking work trucks on their daily routes is an example of telematics. ... The owner installs a GPS tracker unit into each truck. A smartphone app gives him data on all eight truck which he uses in a number of ways.

Logistics Industry: Telematics can aid in better commercial fleet management by improved tracking, flexibility in route planning, efficient use of capacity, reduced fuel consumption and thereby higher revenues.

In its broadest sense, telematics is the joining of two sciences—telecommunications, a branch of technology including phone lines and cables, and informatics such as computer systems. Today, the term is commonly used in reference to the telematics solutions utilized in commercial fleet vehicles.

The Early Days

Telematics developed alongside the internet. As computers became smaller and more widespread, the need for an easy way to exchange data grew. This was when telecommunication technology was used to connect computers with each other as well as other devices, and thus telematics was born.

(Quick fact: The actual term 'telematics' was coined back in 1978 by Simon Nora and Alain Minc in their report titled 'L'Informatisation de la société' – which was prepared for the French Prime Minister in response to the development of computer technology and the dawning of the information age).

Since that time, computer processors have become smaller and more ubiquitous, while telecommunication networks have become widespread and effective in transferring large amounts of digital data, regardless of where the computer is located. Whether it's on a lorry driving through the remotest parts of the country or a delivery van on a ferry, telematics can transfer near real-time data to central offices to help fleet operators better manage their mobile workforce. 

How Does A Telematics System Work?

At the core of a telematics system is a vehicle tracking device or black box. It collects GPS data as well as a huge range of vehicle-specific data from the vehicle's ODBII port and transmits it via either GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), 4G mobile data or satellite communication to a centralised server that then interprets the data and enables its display to end-users.

There is a multitude of data collected by the telematics device, which when decoded, can provide in-depth vehicle information such as location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration or braking (measured by an internal accelerometer), fuel consumption, vehicle faults and much more.

All this data is then layered over a map in our fleet management software in near real-time and can be viewed via secure websites and apps optimised for smartphones and tablets.

Fleet telematics gathers a range of data using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, sensors and vehicle engine data to provide fleet operators with the information they need to manage their fleet.

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology

Powers live visibility into vehicle location, speed and movement within points of interest through geofencing.  

Sensors

 Enable the capture of data on driver activity, including aggressive acceleration, harsh braking and erratic cornering, but sensors can be used to monitor any in-vehicle activity such as a door opening, tail lift raising and even trailer temperature. 

Engine Diagnostics

These solutions pull data directly from the in-vehicle diagnostics system and are primarily used to gather real-time data on fuel efficiency and vehicle odometer readings that help power digital fleet maintenance solutions.

The data is temporarily stored in a telematics device that is installed in each vehicle and is then transmitted over private cellular networks to secure servers. It is this central data hub that enables fleet management software to provide easy-to-understand visualisations that help fleet managers optimise their operation.

Internet Of Things

Telematics is also proving crucial in what has become known as the Internet of Things that Move (IoTtM); specifically, in transport and freight. These sectors have been leading adopters of IoT technology, with the data it provides allowing for more efficient routing and scheduling as well as generally better-optimised use of resources. The IoTtM thus encompasses, for example, location tracking and driver and equipment operator monitoring, including engine and driver hours. The main benefits of this include:

Reduced Fuel Costs 

With fuel consumption being one of the most pressing costs facing fleets, detecting and reducing excessive fuel use is absolutely crucial to overall efficiency. Telematics does this through more direct route planning, reducing job site bottlenecks and cutting engine idling, while also detecting unauthorised vehicle or equipment use (enabling firms to cut down on resulting fuel usage).

More Cost-Effective Maintenance 

Telematics warns managers of mechanical issues with vehicles and equipment, which allows them to address these problems sooner and thereby reduce the danger of downtime (which is not only inconvenient but can also have serious knock-on effects for other jobs). It also makes scheduling preventative maintenance simpler, which again helps to maximise vehicle and equipment uptime.

Better Communication

 Previously, keeping in touch with drivers and operators out in the field could be a complex business. Telematics simplifies communication processes and significantly reduces the need for human operators and drivers to check in and report back, automating much of this process. As well as ensuring that managers have access to the data they need faster, this allows operators to spend more time concentrating directly on the job in hand.

Enhanced Safety 

Another crucial consideration (and a central legal responsibility) for firms operating fleets of vehicles and equipment, safety is of paramount importance. Telematics improves safety management by monitoring both driver and operative behaviour and vehicle and equipment performance. It allows anomalies – such as unsafe practices – to be detected and addressed quicker. It also allows for emergency assistance to be directed straight to the site where it is needed, through location tracking.

Telematics is also helping both industry and society adapt to the continuing challenges facing major towns and cities. The mounting pressure on urban infrastructure (particularly transport) requires industry to take innovative and imaginative measures; this has led to the rise of the so-called 'smart city'. This means, in a nutshell, using data and technology to maximise efficiencies (from energy efficiency to traffic management) and thereby make urban environments more practical, sustainable, secure and liveable for all concerned. 

Telematics: The Core Services

Every car with telematics has a core of common features. These are the ones you'll either use a lot of use to summon help. Most will be on the base-level telematics subscription. You get anywhere from six months to 10 years of free service; one year is most common. Access may be via a single button to press on the mirror or just above on the headliner, or there may be a separate Help/SOS button and another for general assistance.

Automatic Collision Notification

 This automatically notifies the call centre and the call centre summons help. Because the embedded modem is protected, it continues to work even after severe accidents. It uses land-based cell towers, not satellites, for two-way communication, so there's a rare chance the car can't reach the call centre. But the roof- or deck-mounted cellular antenna gives the system one or two bars more of signal strength than your mobile phone.

Emergency Assistance. 

Press the Help or SOS button to summon aid for an emergency involving your car and occupants that aren't crash-related.

Good Samaritan Assistance. 

That's when you see an accident or emergency involving others, and press pushes the Help or SOS button.

Roadside Assistance. 

If you have a mechanical breakdown, flat tire, or run out of fuel, press the Help or general button on the mirror or headliner to summon help. Because there's embedded GPS, you don't have to guesstimate where you are.

Vehicle Diagnostics/Vehicle Health Report

Once a month, you get an email reporting the condition of your car. You can also order up diagnostics at any time and have it sent to your dealer. It helps avoid breakdowns and builds service at the dealership. This is an example of a telematics feature that has little added cost to the automaker.

According to statistics, the top three telematics interactions are remote commands to the car from a smartphone or web browser, monthly diagnostics reports, and turn-by-turn navigation requests. For GM cars, those amount to 3 million per month in North America. Excluding that, the most used features are remote door unlock, roadside assistance, Good Samaritan, emergency (button press), and automatic crash notification. For every automatic crash response, there are 1.5 button presses for an emergency or Good Samaritan emergency (each), five requests for roadside assistance, 15 remote door unlocks, 750 navigation requests or downloads, and 1,000 monthly diagnostics reports sent out.

How To Make The Most Of Telematics

Adopting a telematics solution is crucial for truly efficient and effective fleet management, and there are a number of significant advantages that implementing a telematics solution will bring to your business.

For starters, who wouldn't want a complete picture of their entire fleet at their fingertips, via intuitive and easy-to-use dashboards delivered through a mobile app?

Here are six fundamental ways telematics-adopting companies are maximising the potential of their fleets:

Decreased fuel costs

Tracking driver behaviour could help you to identify areas of waste and act upon them accordingly, which ultimately helps towards reducing your fuel usage. Also, with the right solution, you'll be able to plan the most efficient route for each of your drivers at the touch of a button. This helps to minimise any unnecessary mileage.

Improved safety

Because feedback on driving style and behaviours are continuous, you're in the best position to coach drivers about their bad habits (speeding, late or harsh braking) and also acknowledge those who perform well. Whilst your drivers are likely to have good intentions and don't set out to jeopardise the safety of other road users, they are only human and can easily slip into bad habits. With a telematics solution, you can closely monitor these bad habits and produce reports, or league tables, which highlight your drivers performance and help to implement new safety targets.

Boosted productivity

With near real-time GPS system data, your drivers can avoid traffic delays, as well as giving you the ability to quickly and easily attribute any new or additional site visits to the nearest vehicle and instruct them on the most efficient route to get there.

Better payroll management

By tracking the precise time a vehicle starts at the beginning of the day to the moment it shuts down at the end, a fleet tracking solution provides an accurate, automated record of how long an employee worked and where. By automating payroll business owners not only help ensure their employees are paid accurately for the hours they have worked, but they can also take back the time currently spent manually matching up timesheets and job tickets.

Reduced unauthorised use

One way you could lower the risk of accidents is to ensure your vehicles are only on the road when they need to be, during business hours. However, are you certain none of your vehicles are used in a driver's own time without consent? With a telematics solution, you can monitor when a vehicle is used out of hours as well as having the option to geofence certain areas to ensure your vehicles are where you expect them to be at all times.

Lower maintenance costs

Telematics can be set-up to deliver alerts based on mileage, engine use or time. Couple this with information on driving behaviour and you can monitor the wear and tear on your company vehicles in order to plan and carry out preventive maintenance. Furthermore, a comprehensive solution can alert you of diagnostic trouble codes such as engine warning lights, removing the need to rely on the driver to report faults and enabling you to resolve the issue quickly, minimising ongoing damage.

The Future Of Telematics

The future of telematics is likely to achieve the unimaginable. Whether driving your personal vehicle, or managing a fleet, constant communication with nearby vehicles is already achievable through telematics.

Telematics is poised for exponential growth as new applications are developed to take advantage of modern GPS units and the widespread use of mobile devices. More fleets are recognizing the need to monitor fleet activity to control costs, boost productivity, improve accountability, and maintain full compliance with government regulations.

As owners look beyond the basic needs in order to achieve "increasing integrations into the broader scope of the enterprise, including with mobile workforce management, ERP software, and business management software," telematics will become an integral component of all modern fleet operations.

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